Bite-sized knowledge for the hungrily curious

Why is a big purple vegetable called an eggplant?

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

The Answer

The white variety of the eggplant looks very much like a chicken egg.

When you look at an eggplant (also known as aubergine, Guinnea squash, brinjal or melongene) it’s hard to imagine why it is named after an egg (though plant seems reasonable).

The fruit is a large egg-shaped berry with a glossy surface that varies in colour from dark purple to red, pink, yellowish, or white and is sometimes striped; the colour and shape of the white variety is the source of the common name.

Eggplant | plant | Britannica

The eggplants we typically see in the grocery store (or in emojis) are the dark purple varieties. Here is what the white variety looks like.

Image by Suanpa from Pixabay

If purple eggplants are more common, why did the white version produce the name?

The name we use was coined long before the availability of the common purple eggplant was as high as it is today.

…way back in the 1700s, early European versions of eggplant were smaller and yellow or white. They looked like goose or chicken eggs, which led to the name “eggplant.”

Why Is It Called an Eggplant? | Wonderopolis

What are some other interesting facts about Eggplants?

  • Botanically eggplants are a fruit (a berry) and not a vegetable.
  • Culinarily, eggplants are considered a vegetable.
  • They are part of the nightshade family of plants.
  • Latin name is Solanum melongena.
  • Related to the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum).
  • Also related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum).
  • They’re related to several poisonous varieties of nightshade.
  • The colour aubergine is derived from the colour of the purple eggplant.
  • The first known written mention of eggplant comes from a Chinese book on agriculture written in 544.
  • 90% of eggplant production comes from five countries: China, India, Egypt, Iran, and Turkey.

The eggplant emoji first debuted in 2010 and quickly became a symbol for the penis. According to “Among the New Words,” a quarterly article in the journal American Speech, the eggplant emoji was used on Twitter to mean “penis” as early as 2011.

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